We finally managed to launch a balloon this fall. It’s been in the works for well over a month, maybe two. Weather and scheduling finally came together and we launched on Tuesday, November 28, 2017, from Virginia City High School‘s football field (in Nevada). Virginia City is best known for being home to Mark Twain, who lived, worked and wrote here in the 1860’s, the Comstock Lode gold and silver rush, as being one of the settings for the old Bonanza TV show and a rich history.
We launched about 8:30AM – it was hovering around the freezing mark and the sun was just high enough to start warming us a bit. Teacher Sarah Richardson had the honors to release the balloon after a quick countdown. Besides 3 of our GoPro cameras and various data loggers and communications gear, Sarah’s students had designed a payload to release the “high hopes” of the world we’d collected … including their own (over 700 high hopes were included in their payload) so they were intrigued to see how this whole launch thing works. The “outlooking camera” recorded this:
And the “downlooking camera” recorded this:
This launch was mostly about giving Sarah and her students some experience in how this works. The plan is now for them to design various payloads to carry out science and engineering investigations this spring … that will give them plenty of time to prepare. They designed the payload we launched by breaking into groups that each built a payload to release the high hopes which are printed out on small strips of paper. They then had trials that led to choosing the one we launched. They’ll use what they learned about payload construction and I will be visiting class to facilitate them through the process some, but most of that will fall to Sarah. Here is what the balloon burst looked like at 26,000 meters (85,000 feet) a bit less than 2 hours after launch:
In Quicktime you can play the video frame by frame which is awesome! You miss a lot in real time … besides the hunks of balloon that float by you can see high hopes fluttering through the air and one comes right at the camera and you can read it – “people everywhere” … because it is handwritten it must be one from Sarah’s class (the others were printed out) – I’m hoping we find out which student wrote it.
Folded “High Hope” with the words, “people everywhere” clearly visible – hope to find out what the rest said. About 85,000 feet, that’s Pyramid Lake in the middle of the screen shot.
I’ll be uploading some of the photos we took to Flickr when I get the chance and I’ll add a link to them.
Photo taken from near space (26,200 meters / 86,000 feet), June 2015, from the High Hopes Project balloon.
I’ve been asked a number of times since the new school year started if the High Hopes Project will happen again this year, and the answer is yes! We met yesterday with a group of dedicated local middle school teachers that requested to have major roles in the project for their classrooms this year and discussed their participation as well as how the rest of the world can be involved. There will be some differences this year, but the return of some of the most popular aspects of the project as well. This Edutopia article about last year’s project will give you some notion of the project and the links on the project wiki page will further inform you about how you can be involved as well as links to photos and videos. We have to resurrect / restore the project blog and web pages, but the Flickr, YouTube and Twitter accounts are still up and running.
We will be bringing back, with a bit of a twist, an elementary bio-engineering project where students (yes, your students can participate!) do a long term experiment to find a type of paper that will biodegrade quickly, or a substance that can be put on paper to induce it to biodegrade as quickly as possible. The paper has to be able to run through a printer or copy machine BTW …. and we will explain more about the project fairly soon. So be looking for updates here and on the project blog.
A week or so ago I came across this photo on my phone. I took it while we were preparing to launch the “High Hopes Project” balloon this past June at Lake Tahoe and had never taken a close look. The balloon had just been inflated and we secured it to a picnic table while we prepared the payloads it would transport to 86,000 feet. I wish I could say I thought a lot about setting up the shot and getting it just right, but truth is I took it pretty spur of the moment because we were all busy getting things ready to go. If you click on the photo it will open in another window and be much sharper. Hope you enjoy it!
The High Hopes Balloon patiently waiting on the beach at Lake Tahoe to be launched spring 2015.
On Saturday, April 25, 2015, I’ll be delivering an online version of one of my most requested presentations: “STEM – What Does That Really Look Like In The Classroom.” I’ll share real STEM projects right from my classroom. The projects will showcase integrated examples that demonstrate how hands-on STEM provides engaging and motivating opportunities for collaboration and problem solving that when coupled with students communicating and presenting their process and results leads to powerful language arts and math learning. This work isn’t shoehorned into your day, it becomes your day, at least for periods of time.
“The future is bright for careers in STEM. However, too many students do not have a strong foundation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to pursue careers in these fields. In the STEM Today For a Better Tomorrow virtual conference we make the case for the role that STEM education plays for students interested in following a STEM career.”
The conference begins at 10 am Eastern Time and offers a wide range of speakers and presentations. The agenda for the day with descriptions of the sessions is posted on the site as well. One I am looking forward to is offered by Captain Barrington Irving. I recently co-taught a model hands-on STEM inquiry lesson to teachers demonstrating the power of integrating language arts, math and art. As part of that lesson teachers in the class read an article about the exploits of Captain Irving:
“In 2007, Captain Barrington Irving became the youngest person to fly solo around the globe. On his 97-day journey, he flew 30,000 miles in a single-engine plane called Inspiration. “
“Barrington Irving Will set the stage for the conference making the case for STEM education as a path for students’ pursuit of STEM careers.”
Note that attendance to the all day virtual conference costs $99 to non-NSTA members and $79 dollars for members. You can read a description of the conference and see the agenda for the day that begins at 10 am Eastern Time and continues until 6 pm Eastern Time.
I got to spend some time today at Cottonwood Elementary School. Students and teachers there are tackling a few of our engineering challenges. I took some photos and wrote a post about the bio-engineering inquiry they are performing over at the High Hopes Project Blog. It’s called “Decomposing Third Graders” or “I saw Third Graders Decomposing At A School Today” – check it out.
Just posted about the work going on with the middle school students that are designing the “High Hopes” release mechanism, a solar panel monitoring system and possibly other systems that will utilize Arduinos. But first they have to learn how … and they’re learning to utilize them with model rockets first! Go check it out. Great messy learning!
Note the 4 party balloons that all started out the same size before they were inflated, on their way to 30,500 meters (100,000 feet ) from a balloon flight last year. On our upcoming flight we will inflate 4 of the same size balloons – the first balloon will be inflated to about 1/4 of its capacity (like the yellow balloon in the photo), the second balloon to about 1/2 of its capacity (see the green balloon above), the third to about 3/4 its capacity (Note the orange balloon), and the fourth balloon will be inflated close to full (Note the red balloon above). What will happen to them during the flight? What are the characteristics of the atmosphere that may effect them and what, if any, will that effect be? Explain your conclusion.
When we launch the “High Hopes” high altitude weather balloon we will include this experiment. We will have a camera recording what happens to the balloons and share those images with you after the flight in late April or early May 2015. So do your research about our atmosphere, discuss with your collaborators, do some heavy thinking, then write what you think will happen. You could even leave your written thoughts here as a comment if you’d like.
When we launch our balloons to 100,000 feet (30,000+ meters) this spring, the world’s high hopes will go with them. Now we’ve made it even easier to submit a “High Hope” using Twitter. Just “Tweet” your “High Hope” for the world, include the hashtag #hhpstem – and we’ll get it and include it in a payload that will take it to near space and then release it to spread around the world. So your “High Hope” will really go high!
We suggest however that having your students write their “High Hopes” for their school, community and the world might need more than 140 characters so then, as we shared in our last post:
“When we first designed the “High Hopes Project” years ago, we went about making sure it stressed not just the powerful content writing experiences about the science and engineering, but the creative writing we knew it would motivate students to engage in. We’ll share more of those along the way, but having students brainstorm, discuss, and share what their “high hopes” are for their school, community and the world turned out to be gold. Most students (maybe adults too) just don’t think about what can and could be.
Originally we had our students write those three “hopes” … school, community … world. We posted general steps, but we have no strict rules about how you submit your “Hopes.” They can be just be one “hope” per student … a “class” hope that the class develops … it is up to you. “Hopes” could also be written as a poem or short story. Once done, you submit them here.”
Either way is fine, you decide. But you just might want to send your own “High Hope” to us quickly through Twitter … and now you can! Remember the hashtag #HHPSTEM – you can even send more than one!